A Son's Journey Deep Into the Heart of Saul Bellow

Greg Bellow Offers a Piercing Family Memoir

More Write of Heartbreak: Saul Bellow (seen here in 1990) is the subject of his son Greg Bellow’s new memoir “Saul Bellow’s Heart.”
WIkimedia Commons
More Write of Heartbreak: Saul Bellow (seen here in 1990) is the subject of his son Greg Bellow’s new memoir “Saul Bellow’s Heart.”

By Jason Diamond

Published May 02, 2013, issue of May 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

For those who have read a good deal of Saul Bellow’s work and have read a little bit about his life, it isn’t always that hard to see where fact and fiction blend; his friend and sometimes rival, Isaac Rosenfeld, was the inspiration for King Dhafu in “Henderson the Rain King,” and the dead genius poet Von Humboldt Fleisher was a stand-in for the poet Delmore Schwartz in “Humboldt’s Gift.” Greg Bellow also recalls a scene in Roth’s “Everyman” that seemed familiar to him: “a funeral scene reminiscent of Saul’s during which a fictional character speaks, almost verbatim, my final graveside words to my father as I tossed a ceremonial handful of dirt onto Saul’s coffin.” This scene is one of the many throughout Bellow’s memoir that make it clear that being the son of a famous writer was never easy.

According to Greg Bellow, his father ruined his own first marriage with his “epic philandering.”

“It did not take long for Saul to develop a taste for sex outside of marriage,” Greg Bellow writes, pointing out that initially his father “adopted a belief that fidelity was a bourgeois ideology,” something the young Saul Bellow, as a Trotskyite, was totally against.

But it isn’t the young Saul Bellow that cheated on his wife with whom Greg Bellow takes the most issue; instead, it was the man his father ultimately became, the “Old Saul,” that Greg Bellow has the most trouble coming to terms with. Both politically and personally, “the man he was between his teens and his late forties filled my father with regret and shame that he felt a need to alter.”

In the end, what you come away with after reading “Saul Bellow’s Heart” is more than just all the things you always wanted to know about the great writer but maybe were afraid to ask until now. This portrait of Bellow winds up being one of a vain, bitter and at times cruel man. And, for better and worse, there’s no stronger account of the life and times of the great writer than this one that was written by his own flesh and blood.

Jason Diamond is the founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn and the managing editor of Flavorpill.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.